Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be with you today. I would like to thank the Finnish Ambassador, Mr. Timo Heino, for hosting this lunch and for giving us this timely opportunity.
Allow me first to congratulate Finland for the work it has accomplished so far, almost half way through its term.
We look forward to the Presidency’s guidance in tackling the main challenges we face at European level, such as relations with strategic partners, migration, climate change and reaching a timely agreement on a new sustainable Multiannual Financial Framework (“MFF”).
One of the recurring concepts that I keep hearing with regards to the Finnish Presidency is the Finnish principle of – Talkoot. This is, if I understand it correctly, ‘when people come together, to work collectively, to help each other, towards a common goal’.
And this is exactly what we need in the months ahead, a strong, secure and united Union, based on the principles and values of the Founding Treaties. An EU, defending peace and security, multilateralism, steadfast in its respect for and promotion of international law in a rules-based world order with the UN Charter at its core.
Today, one week before the European Council, I choose mainly to focus on the latest developments on Cyprus problem, the new alarming actions of Turkey in our Exclusive Economic Zone and Varoshia.
The reunification of Cyprus and its people after 45 years of Turkish occupation is long overdue.
In the face of this perpetuated injustice, the aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement which would safeguard the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, cannot wait.
I have been repeating my commitment, and I will continue to do so, to efforts that will end the unacceptable status quo, allowing all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish, to live in a normal and independent state, without any external interference, foreign guarantees and military troops. This has been and continues to be my priority.
Therefore, as I underlined in my speech at the UN General Assembly and in all my contacts, I am fully committed to the process under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.
It is deemed appropriate to emphasize the great importance that our side bestows to the provisions of the six-point framework presented by the UN Secretary-General and to clearly establish the basis of the settlement to be reached, reaffirming our commitment to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
To this end, we will continue supporting Ms. Lute’s efforts, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy, to reach an agreement on the “Terms of Reference”, which would serve as a basis for the continuation of substantive negotiations.
In this regard, there is an understanding in principle by the leaders of the two communities that the content of the “Terms” should entail the following elements:
Hopefully during the tripartite meeting that will take place next month we will be able to finally move ahead and make substantial progress.
Regrettably, despite recent developments on the Cyprus issue and the aforementioned work of Ms. Lute, we are once again amidst a period of renewed tensions by Turkey that put a big question mark on the real intentions and the aims of our neighbour regarding the future of Cyprus. Not only the nature of these actions but also the “timing” of this escalation is of great concern to me.
One would expect, after New York, a proven commitment by Turkey towards a positive atmosphere in order for all of us to proceed with better prospects to the tripartite meeting of November.
Instead, we are facing an unprecedented escalation in the sea and naturally the public opinion has been negatively affected.
I have been informed about a detailed briefing by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tzionis, that was given yesterday at the MFA, so I will not repeat all the technical details about “Yavuz” that you already know.
This new illegal drilling operation constitutes by far the most severe escalation of Turkey’s unlawful activities to date, and yet another violation of international law and of Cyprus’ sovereign rights.
The aggressive behaviour by Turkey does not affect only Cyprus. It is also part of Turkey’s wider strategy of dominating the Eastern Mediterranean region. Turkeys’ aggressiveness not only violates the sovereign rights of an EU Member State, but also threatens the stability, peace and security of the region, as well as the EU’s strategic interests. We are all witnessing what is now happening in Syria and it is indeed a situation which might lead to a complete distabilisation of this already turbulent area. Turkey should not be allowed to continue to be the trouble maker of an important area with no cost.
You are well aware that the concerns, regarding Eastern Mediterranean, were raised in the numerous, repeated calls by the EU, from the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. Turkey was repeatedly asked to cease its illegal activities and respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus, however it has chosen to defy in the most blatant manner.
It should be recalled that the Leaders of the EU, during the European Council of June 2019, undertook to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus by calling on the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures, including targeted measures.
This call was reiterated by the subsequent Foreign Affairs Council of July 15 which also invited the High Representative and the Commission to continue working on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It is apparent that since the adoption of the July FAC Conclusions not only has Turkey continued its drilling activities, but it has severely escalated its unlawful behaviour against Cyprus.
In the light of all these new alarming developments, we cannot remain idle and in a “business as usual” mode. We are called upon to preserve our credibility by adopting preventive measures, in an effort to exert maximum pressure on Turkey to cease its illegal activities.
The Foreign Minister have written to its homologues and I have done the same, since the following days the issue of targeted measures, in implementation of the June European Council Conclusions, against persons/companies directly involved in Turkey’s illegal drilling operations, as well as sectoral measures, will be discussed in the EU.
Measures constitute a political tool, not the end go, as a deterrence for Turkey’s continued illegal activities. The aim is Turkey to be convinced to de-escalate and cease its illegal activities, and instead put its emphasis to the efforts for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.
Before closing the issue of “Energy” it is important to repeat few points on the immediate benefits by the hydrocarbons to the Turkish Cypriot Community.
First, as I have explained in the past, Mr. Akinci’s proposal is in stark contrast to the convergences achieved on the issue of hydrocarbons, convergences which were indeed never contested by the Turkish side.
Nevertheless, you are well aware that our side has entered into force a National Sovereign Fund, through a relevant legislation, based on the Norwegian model, for the management of any future revenues accruing from hydrocarbon exploration.
This ensures that any use of the revenues either repaying public debt or their utilization by the Government as a guarantee for securing loans is strictly prohibited.
Second, although the rights of our Turkish Cypriot Community are already secured by the convergence achieved and the establishment of the Fund I just mentioned, in another effort to create these conditions that will make the Turkish Cypriots more encouraged and comfortable, and despite the political cost, we have also conveyed our readiness to deposit revenues accrued from the exploitation of hydrocarbons into an escrow account for the Turkish Cypriot community, in accordance with the population ration of the future constituent states.
I will now say a few words on another important and worrying issue with regards to Turkey’s “plans” for a potential opening of the fenced area of Varosha under illegal Turkish military occupation.
First and foremost, I wish to welcome yesterday’s reaffirmation by the UN Security Council on the importance and also the need to respect, comply with and implement the relevant Resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992). The UN Security Council called at the same time for the termination of any actions or plans that contradict to the provisions of these resolutions.
I am sure you all understand the immense political, legal and symbolic importance, of Varosha. Let me recall briefly that the return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants was defined as a priority since the High-Level Agreement of 1979 where it was first defined that “after agreement on Varosha has been reached it will be implemented without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem”.
Since then, the UN Security Council repeated in numerous resolutions the priority that should have been given to the closed area and condemned any attempts to settle the area. It also called for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations. The United Nations continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the status quo in Varosha.
Against this background, recent action on behalf of Turkey and so called officials of the occupation regime are in sharp contrast with the aforementioned context and are further poisoning an already toxic atmosphere.
Any attempt to open the fenced area of Varosha under the administration of the so called “TRNC”, and we have indeed witnessed an intensification of these activities in relation to Varosha lately, including public provocative statements, will not only be contrary to the UN Security Council resolutions and the rights to property of the people of Famagusta, but they will also be an action to further escalate tensions and poison the climate in view of the tripartite meeting.
I will bring this issue up to the attention of the European Council since I strongly believe that it is a matter of direct concern to the Union. In fact, in the recent past, the EU (at the level of the Council as well as European Parliament) kept the issue of Varosha under its radar, through various initiatives.
The closed town and its legal opening, with the return of the lawful inhabitants, could be the most appropriate, reunifying in nature, confidence building measure and the EU must join the UN, in its efforts to bring life back to this area. I recall at this point my proposal for a bicommunal technical committee on the Reconstruction and Resettlement of the fenced area composed of international and Cypriots experts.
These very negative developments in our maritime zones naturally will have an impact on our positions in other areas of importance for the EU as a whole, not for tactical reasons, but for reasons of substance.
Briefly I would say that on migration, we need to keep it high in the agenda as a priority. Migration must be addressed in a comprehensive manner by delivering on all fronts and not by opting for a piecemeal approach. An effective and fair asylum system constitutes part and parcel of the holistic approach on Migration.
Cyprus continues to face disproportionate migratory pressures. We remain the first country concerning first time asylum applications per capita. Since 2015, we had a 199% increase of applications from Syrians who are, in their majority, beneficiaries of international protection.
We must finally find the courage to have an in-depth discussion that will lead to a permanent solution. Cyprus is not in favour and will not support ad hoc solutions and extra financing of specific countries in a disproportionate and unfair manner.
On MFF, Cyprus has been a vocal supporter of a swift consensus, from the very start. We stand ready to facilitate the Finnish Presidency in reaching a consensus at the December European Council.
However, we have serious concerns with regards to certain tools and their effectiveness in the area of the pre-accession funds given to partners with problematic behaviour and also funds targeted to certain aims (like the reunification of Cyprus) that hasn’t delivered the expected results so far.
We also acknowledge efforts to modernise the budget and support action to address modern challenges with sufficient resources. However, this cannot be done at the expense of the two main investment and well established policies, namely Cohesion Policy and Common Agricultural Policy.
Therefore, we are wary of any change to the reference period for the calculation of the Cohesion Policy Funds allocation, at this stage of the negotiations that will prolong the negotiating process.
Last but not least, on Brexit, time is indeed of the essence. We have all worked hard to allow for the orderly departure of the United Kingdom from the EU.
The Withdrawal Agreement rests at the centre of our efforts, since it preserves the rights of citizens and provides the much needed certainty for business. It also preserves the peace and stability on the island of Ireland and safeguards the integrity of our biggest achievement – the Single Market.
We, of course, stand ready to examine any fully workable and legally operational proposals that meet all the objectives of the backstop, or for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason.
Today my aim was to get this opportunity to brief you on issues that matters to me and my Government a lot. It is indeed a timely meeting and I once again thank the Finish Ambassador for organizing it. I hope I gave you all the information and messages to convey to your capitals and wish to all of us a productive and prosperous end of the year.
I started with a reference to the Finnish principle of – Talkoot. I honestly believe in the value of people working together, collectively, helping each other, towards a common goal.
Therefore, you will allow me Mr. Ambassador to borrow this Finnish principle of talkoot with the wish that through coordination, transparency and respect, partners can indeed address any challenge ahead of them.
Thank you very much. I am ready to reply if you have any questions.